Triumph Rocket III Roadster road test review

Triumph Rocket III was hardly lacking street presence, but with its new moody paint and even more imposing look, the Rocket III Roadster cuts an aggressive form

Click to read: Triumph Rocket III owners reviews, Triumph Rocket III specs and see the Triumph Rocket III image gallery.

Presence. It’s something the Rocket III Roadster has in abundance, and just staring at it in the Triumph factory car park I feel slightly intimidated by its looks, as well as the numbers. 2294cc and a kerb weight of 367kg mean I’m going to give it some respect.

Triumph has changed tack slightly by pitching the Roadster as a musclebike, rather than the cruiser the previous bike was. The Rocket III line up has altered to accommodate this change by getting rid of the standard Rocket III and the Cruiser variants, leaving this bike - the Roadster - and the Tourer as the only choices available.

The first thought provoking moment rears its head as we leave the factory gates, as a slow and tight S-bend leads onto a roundabout and the open road. I’d noticed the 240 section Metzeler Marathon rear tyre before I climbed aboard, but it really takes some positive input from the bars to get the Roadster to turn, which is a bit unnerving to begin with to someone who is more used to sportier bikes with 180 section rears that just drop into turns at the slightest thought.

Fortunately, to go with the bike’s mean street image, the Roadster comes equipped with wide enough bars to make manhandling it through turns not too much of an ordeal. What’s also noticeable even so early on as I negotiate the car park and exit of the factory is how well balanced the Rocket III feels for such a large heavy bike. This would later be demonstrated by Triumph’s stunt maestro Kevin Carmichael at Bruntingthorpe, as he effortlessly completes impossibly tight figure of eights at no more than walking pace.

Out on the roads around Hinckley and the Rocket is a surprise. While tighter corners take a bit of planning to get round, the overall experience of the handling gave me a big smile on my face, and then when you find a clear straight, that huge 2.3 litre engine can be unleashed. Which is where I was left a bit cold.

Admittedly, I think I must have built up the power delivery in my mind and formed an opinion of how it must feel before even turning the key. In the pre-ride presentation an impressive looking graph caught my eye showing the new Rocket III having 15% more torque and 6% more power.

How can 146bhp and 163ft.lb torque not manage to knock my socks off when I really open it up? Although it is very fast, the power plant builds power progressively like a turbine, there’s even a whir to go with it as the speed builds. It’s the kind of smoothness that is the goal for most manufacturers when it comes to engine characteristics, but it seems to be lacking that indefinable something we all look for in a bike: soul.

I was expecting a real kick in the teeth like Yamaha’s V-Max, but it just never happens. It feels strong at low revs as it should with three 101.6mm diameter pistons thumping up and down, and there aren’t any noticeable holes in delivery, but there’s just not the top end rush I expected as the needle reaches its 6,500rpm redline.

It may be the lack of gut wrenching acceleration that flatters, but the brakes on the Roadster are impressive. For 2010 all Rockets will come with ABS as standard, which if the test ride is anything to go by is definitely a good thing. There’s no obtrusiveness at all, nor a spongy feeling at the lever which can affect many ABS systems. It really is an excellent system, giving the rider huge confidence without taking away any of the feel which is so important when braking hard.

As the test reached Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground we were warned about the lack of ground clearance prior to heading out to circulate the airfield ‘track’, but when pushed to any kind of lean angle the pegs go straight down, wearing out the hero blobs at such an alarming rate the support technicians were replacing them after every session.

All this cornering fun got me thinking about how little I noticed the suspension. Triumph claim the rear shocks are 20% more softly sprung than on the previous model, and they certainly give a smooth and cosseting ride. The horribly bumpy airstrip was more than bearable, and the soft shocks combined with the really plush seat smoothed out any surface imperfections on the road too.

Combine the comfort with the large 24 litre fuel tank and you even have a bike that could cover big distances (so long as some wind protection is added) and there are plenty of options in the official Triumph accessories catalogue, which is all part of the ownership experience. People who are looking at this sort of motorcycle will want to customise it to some extent, and to this degree Triumph have gone out on a limb to offer as much as possible. One upgrade I’d recommend would be the aftermarket pipes as they make such a difference to riding the bike, giving it the deep, rich tones it deserves.

The Roadster is a very well finished machine that’s been developed in an intelligent way, with the engineers only changing the parts of the bike that needed updating rather than fiddling around with things just for the hell of it. Changing gear has been made smoother, all-new clocks now give riders a gear selection indicator and the styling changes definitely improve the overall look.

I was expecting a monster of a bike with the Roadster, but it’s definitely not that. It’s a very usable muscle bike with all the looks and even a hint of practicality that would make owning one a pleasure, especially with an RRP of £10,949 that undercuts its rivals by a significant margin. It’s just a shame that enormous engine doesn’t quite realise its full potential.

For some people though, a smooth and hassle free power plant will be exactly what they want for a relaxing ride, and by aiming the bike at these people, Triumph will be eager to repeat the sales success of the original Rocket III.

Rating: 4/5

Specifications

Price: £10,949
Engine: 2,294cc, 12-valve, liquid cooled inline triple Top Speed: 120mph
Power:
146bhp at 5750rpm Torque: 163ft.lb at 2750rpm
Bore & stroke:
101.6mm x 94.3mm Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Front suspension:
Kayaba 43mm inverted forks
Rear suspension:
Kayaba twin shocks, preload adjustment
Front brakes:
2 x Four-piston Nissin calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
Rear brake:
Brembo twin-piston caliper, 316mm disc with ABS
Kerb Weight:
367kg Seat height: 750mm
Fuel capacity:
24 litres
Colour options:
Black, Matt Black